Paths To Knowledge (dot Science)

What is actually real in Objective Reality? How do you know? Now, prove it's real!

The Power of Belief and Trust and Mass Propaganda are the Greatest Challenge In Continuing the Scientific Enlightenment

Posted by pwl on December 13, 2009

“So there is no need to invoke a complicated explanation for global warming involving disputed data on sunspots, cosmic rays and clouds, as some sceptics continue to do. The answer lies not in elaborate suppositions, but in the science and the data we can trust.” – Sun sets on sceptics’ case against climate change, Steve Connor,

The question is what is the science? How do you separate the wheat from the chaff? What happens when the data can’t be trusted due to the games that the alleged scientists involved played with it?

The climate debate seems to be less and less about the science than it does to be about people’s internal mental representation of their “beliefs” about the science that they “trust”.

Christopher Monckton proves to be an amazing interviewer.

“I’m most grateful to you for having giving me so much of your time. I do beg you not to believe either me or anyone else on this but do exactly what you just said and check for yourself and when you do I think you’ll find you’re addressing a non-problem. Thank you very much.” – Christopher Monckton

Cryosphere Today, University of Illinois

In the ideals of science “belief” and “trust” have no place as anyone would be able to “replicate” the science claims of any hypothesis on their own at any time.

For some hard sciences this is possible, for example with Newton’s gravity hypothesis just about anyone can do the experiments to confirm or refute the claims. Of course to test Einstein’s claims takes a bit more work and a lot more understanding as to grasp Relativity takes deeper comprehension.

What I wonder about is how can someone grasp what is going on in the global warming climate change debates without bring trust and belief into it? Is it even possible?

Many people I talk to find it difficult to accept that the raw temperature data from the scientists that collect it could be untrustworthy due to sloppy science or due to deliberate manipulation. They think that one couldn’t get away with it. Again it comes down to trust.

What is trust?

# have confidence or faith in; “We can trust in God”; “Rely on your friends”; “bank on your good education”; “I swear by my grandmother’s recipes”
# something (as property) held by one party (the trustee) for the benefit of another (the beneficiary); “he is the beneficiary of a generous trust …
# allow without fear
# reliance: certainty based on past experience; “he wrote the paper with considerable reliance on the work of other scientists”; “he put more trust in his own two legs than in the gun”
# believe: be confident about something; “I believe that he will come back from the war”
# the trait of believing in the honesty and reliability of others; “the experience destroyed his trust and personal dignity”
# hope: expect and wish; “I trust you will behave better from now on”; “I hope she understands that she cannot expect a raise”
# a consortium of independent organizations formed to limit competition by controlling the production and distribution of a product or service; “they set up the trust in the hope of gaining a monopoly”
# entrust: confer a trust upon; “The messenger was entrusted with the general’s secret”; “I commit my soul to God”
# faith: complete confidence in a person or plan etc; “he cherished the faith of a good woman”; “the doctor-patient relationship is based on trust”
# extend credit to; “don’t trust my ex-wife; I won’t pay her debts anymore”
# confidence: a trustful relationship; “he took me into his confidence”; “he betrayed their trust”

It seems that “trust” is replete with “belief and confidence being placed in” others. Here in lies the problem with such a complex discussion about climate science. It is complex and most people tune out when the math gets mentioned. As a result of eyes glazing over they revert to the basic human feeling of trusting another, often trusting the “experts with authority”. I suspect that in the global warming climate debates most people suffer from the belief stricken false argument of appealing to authority since they can’t deal with or won’t deal with the science involved.

Part of the reason is that people often want to simplify by distilling the options down to a simple decision. They don’t want to have to evaluate the thousands of details involved as it takes a considerable amount of time to comprehend each new detail.

I started this blog after a year or so following the debate. What happened was enlightening to me that the facade of “the truth as known by the consensus popular view of science” on many topics was shattered when I asked a couple of questions. It turned out that I simply wanted to comprehend the basic science behind the claims of man made global warming climate change. As someone dedicated to life long learning and a deep interest in science, I work as a systems scientist and with complex software and hardware systems, I thought it would be good to learn the basics by asking a few questions. So I was at a science blog and posted a couple of questions about an article that I’d seen come up in a Google search. The article was from a weather man in South America commenting on Darwin’s notes during his long voyage, the comments were about the climate. The article was suggesting that the climate hasn’t really changed all that much since then. Well not knowing the “veracity” of such claims I thought I’d ask a few questions of people who seemed to be knowledgeable about science and climate science.

The response was shocking indeed. Very quickly I was vilified for asking questions that hit at the assumption of man made global warming climate change. As I pointed out that they weren’t answering the questions but were simply engaging in ad hominem personal attacks and being unscientific in doing so it escalated to the point where I wasn’t just booted off their forums but was banned and all my comments were deleted in the process. Censorship was at work, and alive and well. At some point I might post the copies of the portions of the conversations from those postings that I had the fortitude to save. In any event the specific details aren’t the main point I’m making with this story of what happened.

What occurs to me is that each person makes a mental representation, a map if you will, of what they think is objective reality. Portions of this map are highly accurate. Other portions of the map aren’t so accurate. The key thing that people forget is that “The Map Isn’t the Territory.”

Two important characteristics of maps should be noticed. A map is not the territory it represents, but, if correct, it has a similar structure to the territory, which accounts for its usefulness.” – Alfred Korzybski

This applies in science as scientists need – as a result of human biology and in particular as a result of human brain biology – to make a mental map of objective reality. By necessity this map will have its accurate portions and its inaccurate portions and parts everywhere in between. A main challenge in science, other than the complexities of technology and technical or theoretical knowledge, is ensuring that one’s map is accurate in as many places that matter and importantly in as many places as is necessary to support one’s science. The challenge rests is determining what is real in objective reality and what is just (as in only perceived to be) real in one’s map of objective reality. If it’s only real in ones map of objective reality and not actually real in objective reality then what we are dealing with is a belief and not objective reality.

In science the resolution of belief verses what is really real is supposed to be what can be proven to be real via tools such as the scientific method which uses experiment and observations to confirm or refute science claims from our maps of reality. Of course even when our maps of objective reality are confirmed to the Nth digit of precision they are still maps, although possibly highly accurate maps, and not objective reality itself.

Nature, the mother not the journal, is the final judge in all matters of science – not human judgments, not peer review consensus, not peer review refutations, not our opinions. Nature is the final judge, jury and executioner of all scientific knowledge and for what is real in objective reality. We only need adjust our maps to be as accurate as possible with Nature. This is of course harder said than done. Climate science is one such place where that is particularly difficult due to the high complexity of the many Natural Systems involved.

The deep challenge comes in when there are many differing views on what is being observed, theorized and concluded by human scientists. As humans scientists are also fallible. The scientific method and process is supposed to mitigate against this human bias towards our favorite maps of objective reality.

As the Climategate emails, documents and programs have confirmed the so called consensus and peer review process and even the very heart of the climate science itself has been deeply compromised. Humans it seems, yes even the previously trusted and venerated Climategate alleged scientists have fallen into the ancient patterns of our ancestors – belief stricken group think, thought control or thought management tactics, and politics.

One of the possible outcomes of the Climategate affair is that scientists involved in climate science might start speaking out about how their science research refutes the mainstream group think consensus views.

Any scientific hypothesis is supposed to rise or fail based upon the evidence. It’s coming on a year since I started this blog, Paths To Knowledge dot net, and I’ve yet to even begin to scratch the surface of comprehending the many thousands of issues and detailed points in climate science. No wonder the typical person gives up and takes up “trust in authorities”, as it’s a massive challenge just learning the issues let alone the much more difficult challenge in being able to evaluate these issues and make a determination that has anything to actually do with objective reality. Sure it’s easy to make choices and build up a map of the world that one thinks is reality, it’s quite another to be able to build up a map that can withstand the hard objective tests of the scientific method.

The more that I learn about the science of climate science the less and less the promoted map of man made global warming climate change makes any sense.

Some say there is a mountain of evidence. That may well be, and if so please bring it to me for I can’t see the mountain from where I currently stand.

Nature is the final judge of all science. It is not in the minds of men but in Nature where we test the mettle of any scientific claims.

In my journey to find out for myself what the actual science says and what the criticisms of that science say I’m not only learning about the climate science and other sciences but I’m learning a lot about human nature and the nature of “belief” and “trust” and “faith” and how these can be seriously dark forces when the masses of humanity take up a mental map of reality that doesn’t correspond to the objective reality of Nature itself.

One thing that constantly amazes me when talking to people about the climate is that most people cut off the discussion when it gets too detailed or when a point challenges a “belief” they have about it. For example, many people state that they north polar cap is melting and that that is serious evidence of man made global warming climate change. Ok, I say, what about the observed fact that the amount of ice on Earth is about constant with the southern hemisphere growing in ice about as much as the northern hemisphere loses ice? At this point many people loose their grasp on the conversation when they invoke appeals to authority. This is part of the challenge of science education but even deeper is the problem of how do you teach or educate people about a science that is in flux or that has so much controversy particularly when it’s denied that there is any controversy within the community of authorities on climate science?

How do people of reason comprehend the complexities of climate science let alone determine what is real and what is belief stricken dogma or bad science?

The interesting thing about belief stricken maps of objective reality is that they die with you while the objective reality of Nature keeps on going regardless of us or how we view it.

A real profound question is how are we being in the face of a global pandemic of belief stricken humans who have maps of objective reality that are so far from Nature that it has a serious impact upon society? How does one effectively communicate empowering people to actually grasp and most importantly test the notions of climate science themselves? Is it even possible? Will there always need to be trust and belief involved? How many does it take to shift the paradigm?

The climategate documents demonstrate that one or a few people dedicated to finding out the scientific truths can make a significant difference to the conversation as well as to the actual science involved. As the political shock waves of Climategate reverberate across the world and in the minds of key decision makers what are the next steps?

As I end this first year studying climate science and posting over 400 articles do I have any definitive answers on man made global warming climate science? No, what I’ve seen deeply and profoundly has shaken my own mental maps in the confidence of “science” especially that of what one reads in the popular media and online but even more so of “peer reviewed” articles. I’m much more skeptical of scientific claims in the sense that I’m continuing to ask basic questions of any science that I come across. The spirit of science is to ask questions and is to question all the basic assumptions. The spirit of science education is to allow those questions and to engage with those asking to spread scientific knowledge but also to vet the science. Anything less isn’t science but is something best left to our ancestors in the dark caves of history.

The enlightenment faces its greatest challenge, the power of belief, faith, trust and confidence to distort the best mental maps we have of objective reality into political propaganda tools.

What ever you do find out the science for yourself from a direct as possible a source. Never believe what science writers or science journalists say as their opinions are very often biased due to their own belief stricken conclusions already made. Be INDEPENDENT! Find out for yourself.

The other probably better caution is to not make a decision on man made global warming climate change unless you’ve done extensive research from direct sources and have learned the science and counter science. This point of view is based upon the reality that climate change is a very complex field of science and it’s not easily reducible to platitudes or simplistic beliefs. There are also many social and economic policies now being intertwined with the science mixing up the clarity with their political propaganda messages. Use extreme caution with anyone who says the science is settled or that consensus is science for as we know from basic science philosophy these are never the case as science is always the pursuit of the nature of objective reality.


8 Responses to “The Power of Belief and Trust and Mass Propaganda are the Greatest Challenge In Continuing the Scientific Enlightenment”

  1. kerry mccauley said

    this is really nitpicky, it’s 4:00 a.m. (my excuse) but please, your thoughtful post is marred by confusing “”it’s” with “its”.

  2. TomFP said

    This is an excellent study of earlier scares that have yet to be fulfilled:

    Click to access green%26armstrong-agw-analogies.pdf

    It throws the most light on the phenomenolgy of apocalyptic myth-making of anything I have yet seen since Nov 19th.

  3. pwl said

    Thanks, I’ll review the grammar. I’m my own editor and usually I catch mistakes such as you’ve pointed out on the second, third, Nth readings after publication. It’s inevitable.

    I fixed four or five instances. Thanks again.

    If you see or any one else sees any other errors or mistakes in grammar, concept, science, or whatever please let me know and if verified I will stand corrected.

  4. Hamish said

    My school record will confirm science is a challenge for me at the best of times, but human nature is more understandable for me and I believe it plays a significant part in the momentum the global warming scare stories gained.

    If you consider the results of ambition in various walks of life, it can overcome many a vocation with a desire for fame and/or fortune burning deep inside many people, be they scientists or X Factor contestants. I suspect many scientists are more interested in being spoken of in the same breath as Eisntein or Curie, household names in households that shelter no hope of real understanding of the achievements of either.

    If you are a humble research scientist, specialising in a particular area that suddenly becomes the focus of attention and your every whim will receive media attention you could only dream of, are you likely to wish to remain silent? Some will, but others will crave the spotlight and be only too eager to argue the case for those providing the power for that spotlight. Once the media wheels are spinning at full speed and even the most outrageous theory can enjoy some attentuion, when is the right time to jump off, content that you’ve had your 15 minutes of fame? The correct answer seems to be slightly before you recognise the time has arrived, as, in this case, the bullying has proved incapable of silencing the curious. It is possible there will be a hysterical backlash against those who have seemingly championed the global warming doom stories and, whilst some, such as Al Gore and Michael Mann, might deserve the full force of that backlash, many won’t.

    The media has been a significant and extremely influential factor in this whole mess and is likely to continue being so. We must be grateful that they can be by-passed and access to information, such as that on this blog, can be accessed so easily. Good luck with your continuing quest for clarity and thank you for posting this.

  5. geoffrey swain said

    I loved the ‘fresh air’ journalism, and the interview clarity. Whilst the world tries to sort out the wheat from the chaff, I look forward to climate clarity, and if not agreement about action needed, that pollution reduction, clean water and sewage treatment become financed as a result.
    Meanwhile I continue on my way making my house totally ‘eco’, trouble is that it requires more money spent, in order to save the same, and current finances don’t permit! Whilst writing this, just had 6.0 earthquake at 2.19am. Algarve. I wonder what the AGW people would say about that?

  6. Ein Fremder aus Elea said

    “How does one effectively communicate empowering people to actually grasp and most importantly test the notions of climate science themselves? Is it even possible? Will there always need to be trust and belief involved? How many does it take to shift the paradigm?”

    My personal topic of interest. The answer lies in your general approach to life, since you will not make an exception just for climate change. If we would live in a society in which people would trust their own judgments in the courses of their lives, then they would also want to make a judgment on climate change. But if they prefer to follow experts, whom they could always dump, when that would come in handy for them, then they will do so on climate change too.

    How would I judge? You mention trends of raw data… trends depend on the time limits you set, the beginning of an interval and the end of it. That is trickier business than you might think. No, I would judge the theory of man made global warming by either building a miniature atmosphere and measuring the temperature increase due to higher CO2 concentration or I would measure the temperature in places of the world or its atmosphere where it would be particularly easy to filter out other effects.

    I wouldn’t do it myself. I would speak with the people in my city that I have difficulties to arrive at a judgment and that I would like to be better informed. Then we would go to the local university and make a public request for specific experiments. Perhaps the local scientists would comment on some things too. And then they would carry the experiments out.

    Doesn’t happen though.

    And why is it?

    Because… that’s not how we live our lives, that’s not how we organize, that’s not how we see after our responsibilities, that’s not how we think of ourselves and our responsibilities.

    The mass is a snake… it easily gives in and when the wind turns, it bites you in the back. That’s its evolutionary strategy. So… really… who do you associate yourself with, what is your strategy, what do you do about it?

  7. Mordecai said

    It sounds like you don’t have a lot of experience with science departments and the realities scientific research, and are feeling a bit shocked and betrayed that the day-to-day and paper-to-paper experience of it doesn’t ‘transcend human folly’ to the extent that you had been led to believe. That’s a common reaction; I’ve known lots of graduate students to whom this comes as a blow. But imperfect as it may be, messy and rough as our progress may be, our institutions are still set up to track inexorably towards a stronger, more predictive understanding of the subject. To abandon the institution is a common mistake, but it’s still a mistake.

    By the way, the ‘maps of objective reality’ thing isn’t a very useful perspective for a working scientist. Here’s a better one: roughly, we have observations on the one hand, readings of dials and satellite data and so on; and we have models on the other, be they Maxwell’s Equations or QED or General Circulation Climate Models or Real Business Cycle Theory. Models accept observations of a certain form, run them through their machinery, and spit out predictions of future observations; how accurate these predictions are determines how good a model you have. Maxwell’s Equations are great unless you’re dealing with individual particles; QED is great for those. Real Business Cycle Theory is sometimes OK if you give it unrealistic parameters but is pretty crappy all told. General Circulation Climate Models have been doing pretty well.

    Our task as scientists is to gather reliable and replicable data if you’re an experimentalist (I’m not) or to build models that better predict future observations if you’re a theorist. That’s the standard: predicting observations. If your model does better than the others, then you win. Objections not based on the ground that they don’t predict observations are not serious objections, and people who don’t or can’t make objections on this ground are not to be taken seriously.

  8. pwl said

    It is certainly a complex topic to get into. There are so many points of view, claims and counter claims, debunkings and counter debunkings, and counter debunkings of counter debunkings that it can easily boggle the mind.

    However, there are simple reasons as shown by the actual data that the claims of climate scientists are not true.

    130 years of temperature data from the end of the Little Ice Age show a slow linear + cyclic increase in temperatures 70 years BEFORE CO2 rates began to rise just after WWII 60 years ago during which the exact same linear + cyclic rate has been maintained. Should CO2 have caused any temperature rise it would have shown up as increased temperatures and the linear + cyclic rate would have changed. It hasn’t thus the data observed in Nature has falsified the alarmist AGW hypothesis.

    See Girma Orssengo’s articles on the topic. I suggest these two for starters:

    Sometimes a simple back of the envelope “check” calculation is all one needs to dethrone a widespread belief such as the alarmist AGW hypothesis. It also hasn’t hurt that the key scientists involved documented their own slimy practices so well and that a whistle blower had the guts to release those facts to the public.

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